Russians Killed In Syria Clash, Says Pompeo

Russia has played an active role in the ongoing conflict in Syria

Donald Trump's nominee to replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state appears to confirm for the first time that U.S. forces killed hundreds of Russians in Syria in February and vows to push back against Moscow "in every vector".

He told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would restore "swagger" to a State Department left in tatters by Rex Tillerson, and strengthen relations with U.S. partners left ragged after the tumultuous first year of President Donald Trump's administration.

The outgoing head of the Central Intelligence Agency appeared to confirm Thursday reports that around 200 Russian mercenaries were killed in February during a clash with US-led forces in Syria.

Pompeo refused to comment on the FBI investigation into Russian collusion in the United States elections but did say he believed there was interference from Moscow. "So, in turn, he has come to rely on us", Pompeo said.

"I take a back seat to no one" when it comes to standing up to Russia, Pompeo said.

However, Senate Democrats may refuse to vote in favour of Pompeo with U.S. midterm elections approaching in November and Democrats eyeing sweeping victories due to the unpopularity of President Donald Trump.

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Mr Trump nominated Mr Pompeo to become the country's top diplomat on March 13 after firing Rex Tillerson.

In his testimony, Pompeo confirmed for the first time publicly that he's been interviewed by the team of special counsel Mueller, who is investigating possible ties between Russian Federation and Trump's presidential campaign as well as possible obstruction of justice issues.

"I continue to hold that view", Pompeo said of gay marriage, though he declined repeatedly to answer whether he believes gay sex is a "perversion". But he wouldn't answer questions about the contents of the interview, arguing it would be improper since, as CIA director in charge of overseas intelligence gathering, he has been a "participant" in Mueller's probe.

"Senator, I'm not going to talk about the conversations the president and I had".

Booker specifically asked Pompeo if he had ever condemned Frank Gaffney, an anti-Muslim extremist who has said that Muslims who "abide by the adherence of their faith should be tried for acts of sedition and should be prosecuted".

The date for the vote confirming Mr Pompeo in the full Senate has not been set but is likely in the coming weeks.

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